School Health Clinics Could Reduce Pregnancy, Infection

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Young people are more likely to use sexual health services if they can access them at schools, according to research by the University of the West of England. A pilot scheme offering drop-in sexual health clinics in Bristol schools has successfully accessed 'hard to reach' groups including boys and vulnerable young people who would not otherwise have received advice.

The outreach scheme was run by Brook in partnership with Bristol City Council and Bristol Primary Care Trust in sixteen schools in Neighbourhood Renewal areas of Bristol. It was set up in response to a 143% rise nationally in sexually transmitted diseases between1991 and 2001, and the Department of Health's UK Sexual Health Strategy aimed at reducing the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the under 18 age-group.

Young people using the service reacted very positively to it, and said that the approachability and accessibility of staff was key to its success. The report's author Debra Salmon of UWE's Faculty of Health and Life Sciences said, "61% of the young people we surveyed said they attended because it was at school and easy to access and that they would not have attended alternative provision."

Melanie Iddon of Brook said, "Brook's approach is to take services to young people, because we believe that's the most effective way of engaging and supporting them. We know that outreach work like this also provides an effective bridge to clinic-based services. We're delighted that the research has endorsed this approach and shown how effective it can be simply to provide services where they're most needed."

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Nurses or youth workers provided advice and treatment including contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and advice, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other health-related issues. The multi-disciplinary nature of the team was another reason the success - youth workers were key in preventive work and talking to young men.

Councillor Peter Hammond, Deputy Leader of Bristol City Council and Executive Member for Cohesion and Raising Attainment, said: "The findings of this research show how important it is for young people to have access to advice and help with sexual health issues in a setting that is convenient to them. Parents should be reassured that the confidential service will always include advice that young people should talk to their parents about their situation.

"Reducing teenage pregnancy rates is part of our drive to raise standards in schools. It is vital we keep children in school and focused on their education."

Key findings of the evaluation include

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